Why Defrosting Shouldn’t Be Out Of The Question

There is a well-known saying often attributed to the genius Albert Einstein. ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results’. Albert may not have had much to do with the theatre, but this phrase can certainly ring true in the current theatre environment.

Emile Holba

There is a concept in the theatre industry called freezing a show. And no, it has nothing to do with the reported upcoming Frozen: The Musical. It happens on Opening Night when the show essentially gets frozen after minor adjustments during a short preview period in front of an audience. From this point onwards there are no more story changes, no songs are cut or added, no dialogue is moved around. The show will be seen in this format for the entire run.

This is great for the extremely popular shows such as The Book of Mormon, Wicked and Jersey Boys. It ensures consistency of experience across the audience. If you recommend a show to your friends, you know – bar any theatrical mishaps – the show will essentially be the same when they go and see it. And that faith is important because any recommendation puts the recommender’s reputation on the line.

But what about the slightly less successful shows? At first they have great interest and really good ticket sales. But one or two months into the run, the ticket sales from the initial hype have dropped off and word of mouth recommendations are not happening because there is something missing or there is some component which isn’t working with audiences. These shows are all frozen and cannot change.

If they are not communicating their message effectively to audiences, should they remain frozen? Isn’t that Einstein’s definition of insanity? Hoping for a different outcome despite doing the same show over and over again?

Not only does it condemn shows with issues to an early grave, but it also stands in the way of shows maintaining their relevance. Television shows adapt over time based on audience response. Touring performers slightly alter their shows as the audience changes. Why not do the same in the theatre?

If your product is missing its impact and the solution is a simple change, why not give it a go despite having opened? Fixing these issues could give the product a whole new life and increase its relevance to this rather new audience. It could be the difference between an untimely demise and a long-running success!